I’m Lucy and I’ve been working in the People & Culture team at CTI for 10 months now. I’m happy here, there’s a healthy work-life balance and a lot of support within my team.
I’ve come to understand in recent years that I am neurodivergent - meaning my brain functions a bit differently compared to a neurotypical individual. I’m also currently questioning that I might be autistic, but I haven’t sought a formal diagnosis for this.
What does being neurodivergent mean to me?
For me, learning about autism and neurodiversity has helped me understand why I am the way I am. I have anxiety and I overthink a lot, I also struggle with crowds and socialising in big groups. I find it challenging to strike up conversations with people I don’t know well, unless it’s work related or about a subject I enjoy.
This means making friends is often difficult and it’s easy to feel left out sometimes.
Autism traits in women can differ from how they present in men, meaning a lot of women often go unnoticed until we figure it out for ourselves. This can feel lonely and confusing, and it’s so important for neurodiverse individuals to support each other.
My biggest hurdle is my anxiety with food, particularly unfamiliar textures, tastes and smells. I struggle trying new foods outside of my ‘safe’ foods. I think I might have something known as Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) and this is often linked with autism and neurodiversity.
I’ve always been labelled as the ‘fussy eater’ when in reality it’s so much more than that - no one with ARFID would ever choose to have this. Most events are centred around food; I've often declined going to restaurants or events because there wasn’t anything my brain deemed ‘safe’ to eat. However I’m trying to introduce new foods, tastes and textures to my diet slowly but surely and build my confidence.
Despite these things making daily life a little harder to navigate, I’m happy. I have interests I’m passionate about and my partner and family are a constant support.
I have many strengths that come from my neurodiversity. I am extremely detail oriented and thoroughly check all my work. When working within the field of HR and especially with managing the HR system it’s so important to ensure information is entered correctly, letters containing sensitive information are delivered to the correct individuals and reports are pulled correctly and on time.
I also have a high level of empathy, which allows me to be a genuine, helpful individual at work and I have successfully built up a level of trust with various colleagues.
Working in an office environment
In previous jobs I couldn’t work from home and every day I was physically and mentally drained. The office lights would give me relentless migraines and the constant noise left me unable to focus. I was overwhelmed by the environment and tried to mask it to appear more ‘normal’ as I didn’t want to be a bother.
After moving to CTI, I usually work 2 days a week in the office and the other 3 days from home. I’ve seen such a positive impact on my health - I’m motivated, I can focus better and I enjoy coming into the office and seeing my team.
But the office isn’t always easy to navigate.
I’m terrible at starting conversations about non-work topics. I come across as quiet and reserved - I love talking but I’m bad at engaging others in conversation first and often feel anxious chatting in large social settings. I still get overwhelmed with office noise and background chatter sometimes and have to listen to music to help me focus. I’m also bad with eye contact when I speak to others, either giving too much or none at all.
Despite this, I feel like my current routine works well for me.
How can neurotypical people better understand what it’s like to be neurodivergent?
I think the most important thing is having patience, understanding and willingness to learn. Many neurotypical people don’t even know about the existence of neurodiversity and so many of us are often ignored, bullied or excluded from social circles because we’re different, or because we struggle with communication and social cues.
We’re all human at the end of the day and open mindedness is key - especially within the workplace. Neurodiverse and neurotypical brains can work really well together and produce amazing ideas in a setting free of judgement and exclusion.
At CTI Digital we now have an ED&I Committee which I’m pleased to be a part of. I hope we can help maintain a work environment that is inclusive and supportive of everyone within it.
To hear more stories this World Autism Acceptance week, read Heather's story on her experience of having autistic children and Freddie’s blog on How to Make the Workplace More Accessible for Neurodiverse and Autistic People.